Each week award winning journalist KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you all the news that’s worth knowing from across the SADC region. Here is this week’s SADC wrap.
Malawi last week sentenced a government official to three years in jail for her part in the $30-million Cashgate scandal – the first public servant jailed out of about 50 arrested for their magical abilities to transform public funds into giant piles of cash in their pockets and car boots between 2009 and 2013.
According to AFP, the first Cashgate convict is Treza Namathanga Senzani, “the former principal secretary in the tourism ministry, [who] pleaded guilty to stealing $150,000 from state coffers”.
Senzani was arrested last year when she issued two government cheques to her private company, “which according to police never had the provision of goods or services to the government,” reports Malawi24.
And the judge was hardcore on this: no “suspended sentence because you’re a first-time offender” cushion. Instead, Senzani got three years for money laundering and nine months for theft, to be served concurrently. (Not that all Malawians think this was harsh enough.)
As the judge noted in this AFP report, “It was an illegal act that had an impact on the economy.”
A big impact. In the wake of Cashgate, foreign donors announced they would no longer be gracing Malawi with their dollars. To put this in context, the approximately $150-million that Malawi received in foreign aid before Cashgate made up a sizeable 40 PERCENT of the national budget.
Senzani’s jailing could be the first step in bringing those donors back.
Last week, Germany said it would fund a $25-million audit into just what happened to all the money, but warned it wouldn’t be signing cheques until the loopholes that allowed Cashgate to happen in the first place were sealed.
Technically, she’s only in the running to lead Zanu-PF’s Women’s League. But Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe made media waves last week as she travelled around the country on her “Meet the People Tour”.
And Grace – now commonly referred to in the state-owned media as “Dr Mugabe”, what with being a PhD-prodigy and all – is making her ambitions known. Women’s League? Psh.
“You would see me quiet, a young girl, what did you think I was doing? I was learning,” she said at a rally last week, reports Zimbabwean paper NewsDay.
“So what is shocking you today? You made me what I am, I was copying from you. You are not supposed to be shocked, I am seeing a higher post.”
Honestly, though, that’s mild compared to everything else Grace told us about herself last week, like:
- that she’s all about clean governance
“White people came to me with $10 million to stop the land reform programme. I said to them don’t ever come back to me. I chucked them out of my office and almost spat at their faces. They thought I was a soft target on the programme.”
- that she’s an avid agriculturalist
“Nobody will remove me from the farm which I took. Blood will be spilt if anyone attempts to remove me from that farm … I took that farm personally because even after I told ministers and government officials that I wanted a farm, they did not allocate me land and instead told me they thought I was joking.”
- but nobody buys her yoghurt
“I manufacture yoghurt but no one buys it … You can’t even find a person who can buy a packet of milk.”
- that she’s kind of a racist
“A Zimbabwean lady got married to a Chinese national and they had a child. A few weeks later, the child died and the aunt who was mourning kept saying she knew that the child was going to die within a very short period. After some interrogations the aunt said the death of the child was obvious because Chinese products were not durable.”
- and that she’s basically Lord Varys from Game of Thrones
“In fact my spies are too many, even a person seated next you might be my spy so be careful, I know what you are doing.”
Election Wrap: Mozambique, Mauritius, Botswana
It’s election day in Mozambique on Wednesday, and the news is all about Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the sometime-rebel-but-currently-respectable-opposition-party Renamo. Up until a month or two ago, Dhlakama was still living in the bush, insisting the ruling Frelimo was out to get him and running intermittent skirmishes with government troops.
Now he’s all over the show, speaking in front of crowds of thousands.
Just listen to some of the descriptions from this AFP report:
- “Footage broadcast on national television showed capacity crowds in the coal-rich Tete province where people crowded onto rooftops to see Dhlakama.”
- “Thousands packed the airport of the second largest city of Beira on Sunday, broke through security cordons and streamed onto the tarmac when his plane landed.”
- “ ‘I personally thought he was marginalised,’ said Antonio Francisco, a researcher at Mozambique’s Institute for Social and Economic Studies. But ‘he has resuscitated himself politically’ and his campaign is like an ’emotional tsunami’.”
According to the Africa Elections Project, though, the crowds won’t matter: Frelimo is still expected to win.
Mauritius meanwhile dissolved its parliament last week in the run-up to an election to change all elections, reports AFP. At the moment, Mauritians vote for a party, just like in South Africa, and Parliament then decides who will be president.
But the Prime Minister’s Labour Party and the opposition Movement Militant Mauricien (MMM) have teamed up with the goal of introducing a bill that would allow for separate presidential elections, like in America.
And two weeks before Botswana goes to the polls, President Ian Khama has predicted his ruling Botswana Democratic Party will (again) win by a comfortable margin.
The organisation is trying to raise awareness about maternal and newborn tetanus, and to show just how important it is, they’ve brought on Emma Bunton, a woman best known for wearing her hair in pigtails in the late 1990s.
(Though she seems to have done away with that look now – check out these pics on the Telegraph‘s website: angelic humanitarian profile pic for daaays.)
Look, I’m not judging because, more importantly, Bunton’s using her new global platform to – totally innocently and not at all publicity stuntishly – drop hints about a Spice Girls Reunion.
Now that’s news I want to hear.
Kristen van Schie is a South African journalist working at the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Raised in Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, she has reported from the Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Namibia, Vietnam, Antarctica, and a ship in the Indian Ocean. She is a three-time winner at the Sikuvile Journalism Awards, South Africa’s premier newspaper awards. She blogs about news from the region at The SADC Wrap. Follow her on Twitter.